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Vanish - Making The Switch From Sail to Power
Sunset Sailing
16 November, 2012, Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Downwind racing on the Abaco Sea.

17 November, 2012 | Prent
Looking good, hope you all have fun this weekend. Fun times ahead!
Rage Seas
Vicki - 23 deg Sunny
15 November, 2012, Tilloo Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

The Abacos have been experiencing what they call here as "rage seas". Sounds impressive huh? The Bahamas Guide describes it as being more frequent in winter caused by oncoming cold fronts or offshore Atlantic storms and can occur in beautiful weather. They are where the swells break heavily across various entrances to harbours and banks from the open ocean and are spectacular and extremely dangerous. Well, can't let that pass without taking a gander (Oz term for look see). The plan today was to snorkel at Sandy Cay which is kind of opposite an opening into the Atlantic Ocean where we witnessed the rage seas breaking across the entrance. The swells kept on coming right into Sandy Cay making snorkeling less than ideal with waves and bad visibility and very few fish. We rocked back and forth in Vanish on the anchor although with just one flopper stopper deployed, the movement was much less than it might have been. We could have deployed both flopper stoppers, but the other crane was used to bring the dinghy back up to the fly bridge.

Onwards to our current anchorage at Tilloo Cay where Maynard and I and Jake and Renae took turns sailing our fantastic Hobie Mirage kayaks upwind to Elbow Cay. These kayaks are so fab for all round fitness as you can paddle, row and sail them and yet they fold up into a neat package if you wish to put them away. They always cause a minor sensation whenever we meet anyone on the water or the beach as no one has ever seen them before. We're finally enjoying our time here in the Bahamas as this area is ideal for all the things we like to do.

Destinations & Deliberations
Vicki - 10-15 kn ENE
14 November, 2012, Abacos, The Bahamas

Cruising guides, charts, computers and bits of paper were strewn across tables all over Vanish's salon yesterday as we are working on a plan. We've probably mentioned this before, but one should be as flexible as possible when in cruising mode but the problem is....Where To Go? Because we plan on going home for a few weeks at some stage soon and our crew are taking a holiday in January, one thought we had was to move Vanish as far south as possible now so that we find an economic safe port while we are away and don't waste almost 3 months of our cruising time too far north of the Equator.

We've now lived on Vanish for 6 months and have only been snorkelling twice (once for me) yet one of our main goals is to find warm water, plenty of tropical fish and beautiful coral. The hurricane free cruising season in the Caribbean lasts from December through to the end of May. If we don't take advantage of these months, we'll lose the best time to swim and enjoy before the need to move out of the hurricane zone again. There are two ways to see the Caribbean. We can go from The Bahamas westwards passing Florida to the right and end up 900 miles later in either Mexico or Belize. Alternatively, we can head south-east visiting the southern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, make a hard right to Jamaica, Caymans and again end up in Belize, one place we'd really like to see. If we don't leave now when the winds are most favourable for this kind of trip, we'll have more uncomfortable passages.

Of course, there are other factors weighing on us as well. We initially bought Vanish to head down to South America and enjoy higher latitude cruising but the desire to go to New Zealand and Greenland is also extremely strong. Hokey smoke, who would have thought I'd ever be writing these words! We enjoyed Maine, USA so much; perhaps we should go back for another summer season. The choices are endless and we have not made up our minds on what to do.

Palau is also on our wish list so we have also considered just taking Vanish back to Oz where we can visit countries we've always wanted to see. Back home in Australia we have a nifty 1978 home waiting for us on a picture perfect property in Byron Bay complete with two waterfalls and rainforest, not to mention son Eric and our daughter-in-law Ali and our grandchildren Mike, Madi, and Lily who also live on our property. And then of course, there is my darling almost 11 year old Bindi, our blue cattle dog. Have you ever spent all night with your mind spinning going round and round in circles on what to do? This looks easy, but it's not. Humans don't do well if they have too much choice, especially when the choices are all good ones. Of course, Vanish can do anything we can come up with - we just need to decide.

Making a decision was too hard so today we motored 8 miles, dropped the anchor for the night off one of a zillion cays here and, as the water was lovely and clear, all four of us jumped in and cleaned the hull. It's good exercise and Vanish is sparkling clean. Meanwhile, we'll keep working on The Plan.

13 March, 2013 | John Relphino
If you do end up in Belize. Visit if you want to finance yourself along the way, getting jobs locally is pretty tough.
Where Are Those Channel Markers
Vicki - 25 - 30 kn ENE
12 November, 2012, Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas

The above picture shows damage to a catamaran berthed in Marsh Harbor during Hurricane Sandy. Talk about bad luck. During the storm, a starboard channel marker broke loose about a mile away and plowed into the side of this catamaran, tearing a huge hole in their hull before doing extensive damage to the berth pilings, walkway and other parts of the cat. We were actually wondering where a lot of the channel markers were as they were on the chart but not visible in the harbor. It then sank behind the catamaran and can be seen just under the water. Sunsail had 42 charter vessels in the marina but were able to move most of them to a safer inlet near Treasure Cay so the marina was virtually deserted. Luckily, the owner of this private catamaran was not on board at the time.

Tourist season doesn't get underway until around the beginning of February so there are only a handful of boaties here. We've enjoyed dining at Curly Tails and Mangoes and hope this weather calms down so we can head out again to spots we've identified in our cruising guides. The water temp is now 20 deg in the harbour, the Atlantic has high seas and to top it off, there are rain showers. We are still working on a back up plan to find those tropical hot zephyrs.

12 November, 2012 | Jude
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems Mon
Vicki - Sunny
9 November, 2012, Great Abaco, Bahamas

We do like the laid back attitude of the Bahamians so we couldn't resist taking the above picture at Treasure Cay where no one seems to mind if you wear no shoes or shirt in their restaurant. In fact, this restaurant only opened yesterday after a huge clean up from being inundated with sand and seaweed. Today we moved to Marsh Island on Great Abaco Island where the eye of Hurricane Sandy passed. Only 70 miles as the crow flies from Port Lucaya, they experienced 4 days of high winds as we did but their highest reading was 125 mph. As Sandy arrived on high tide, surge was a problem as saltwater washed over the roads and damaged a number of sailboats in the harbour. The vegetation is salt blasted and brown and everywhere is covered in sand and dust and quite unattractive at present. Many local shop owners have told us that Sandy was the worst hurricane experienced for many years as it lasted so long and came in on a high tide but at least the Bahamians are used to these events and are well prepared. All of the islands have been affected by Hurricane Sandy to some extent and some worse than others.

The forecast for the next 5 days is for 15-20 knots with seas rising to 10 feet so there will be no snorkeling for a while. Oh, and the sea temp has now dropped to 21 deg (70 deg F) probably due to the hurricane stirring up cold water. It's a bit on the frigid side for my liking even with a wet-suit and night time temperatures have already dropped to 17 deg C (62 deg F) so this also cools these shallow waters. It's so tempting to move a few hundred miles south to the Exhumas or even further to find warmth again.

As Marsh Harbor is depth deprived (shallow), Maynard wanted to know the exact draft of Vanish and after careful measuring, we know that with ½ tank full of fuel, we have 1.8 m of clearance. With low water depths of 1.9-2 m in the harbour, we have just enough to swing comfortably as we have never touched bottom and don't intend to. You can see why we needed to check this very precisely. This would not have been a good place to weather the hurricane as hurricanes have been known to either blow all the water out of harbors or bring in a surge and with these shallow depths, it was definitely not an option to come here. Most vessels actually went into canals or to other islands although some of them were still damaged. Again, we are very thankful we weathered it so well at Port Lucaya, Freeport, Grand Bahama.

World's Top 10 Beach
Vicki - 30 kn NW
7 November, 2012, Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Treasure Cay is 17 miles north of Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco and is a 4 mile long crescent of soft white sand voted as one of the world's top beaches. The hurricane took a lot of sand away and replaced it with seaweed which is currently being raked by the locals and loaded into trucks to return it to its pristine beauty. The forecast today was for 10 - 15 knots of breeze but we have 30 knots. If only Maynard had bought that windsurfer he was thinking about on our trip out to the Cape Hatteras windsurfing shop a couple weeks ago. We are anchored in the lee of this NW wind but it's still whitecapping as you can see by the above picture.

7 November, 2012 | Prent
Reminds me of Lake Isabella. Only not. Shoulda bought the board!
8 November, 2012 | Judy
Still looks beautiful though. Enjoy
9 November, 2012 | Vicki Smith
Ah Lake Isabella, California. Those were the days back in 1983 when we'd all go up and windsurf in those freezing windy waters. He's still working on a plan to get a board Prent.
Sunset at Manjack
Vicki - Calm 24degF
5 November, 2012, Manjack Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

A lovely anchorage where we tried our first snorkel.

Puffin' On A Cuban
Vicki - 3 kn NE
4 November, 2012, Manjack Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

There is an ancient Chinese myth about the red thread of fate. It says that the Gods have tied a red thread around every one of our ankles and have attached it to all of the people whose lives we are destined to touch. A few months ago when Maynard and I were sitting in the back of a taxi on our way to pick up my sister from the Rockland, Maine Airport on a cold wet day, I placed my handbag on the back seat and noticed someone had left a small 2" stuffed toy puffin on a keychain in the taxi. It was cute but old and dirty and I thought I could probably find a new one in one of the shops in Rockland. As we'd just returned on Vanish from a trip out to the remote craggy Matinicus Rock to see the nesting site of the puffins, I really wanted to find a puffin souvenir. Jude and I visited every tourist shop in Rockland and Bar Harbor trying to find the exact same puffin keychain but no one had seen anything like it so I put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Maynard and I had never met Cubans before but our neighbours, 'A' and 'R' had been through many hurricanes in Havana and had spent 15 years working in a marina looking after all kinds of vessels. 'A' assured us that we would be fine and we both vowed to help each other if it was needed. In fact, later, he said it was the "best hurricane he'd ever been through". We helped them with a number of issues on the yacht which they weren't aware of so that the yacht would be as secure as possible and a good relationship had already begun. Last week after Hurricane Sandy had passed only 50 miles from us in the Bahamas, Vanish had a small get together with our marina friends. During the get together, they began telling us an amazing story.

For 7 years, these two friends had been saving their money in order to escape Cuba and all the hardships they'd endured. They'd sold everything; their cars, their computers, furniture and anything they could not take with them. They had a few clothes, some money, enormous bravery, a lot of trepidation and nothing else and they were about to embark on a plan to enter the US. This was it. They were now Cuban refugees. This was the culmination of 7 years of planning for the hope of a richer, hopeful, happy new life. What a wild and crazy idea. We couldn't believe our ears.

They were both very emotional about leaving their wives, children, homes, and friends to embark on such a journey as they didn't know if they would make it or see their families again. If ever we've met two people who deserved a better life, then these men were it. They are intelligent, hard-working, family orientated, caring individuals and these are the great qualities on which the US is founded. Maynard and I both felt a profound connection to the men as we both admire people who have dreams and are willing to take calculated risks to improve themselves. In 1995, President Clinton defined the immigration policy by expediting the naturalisation process. Over the years, many Cubans have made the long and dangerous ocean crossing by various methods in a desperate attempt to enter the US. Many lives have been lost over the years. We had no idea what their plan was going to be. If they were caught in the water (known as a "wet foot"), they would be immediately deported. However, if they made it to land (known as a "dry foot"), they would be allowed citizenship.

The owner of the yacht and his wife flew into Freeport a few days after the hurricane and we observed that neither of them knew anything about sailing, and I mean nothing. We didn't know what their intentions were as we didn't speak to them but we prayed they would look after these men. The owner was heavily intoxicated most of the time but apparently had a good heart and the intention of taking the men somewhere. The afternoon of their departure arrived and I beckoned 'A' to come aboard to say goodbye. I wanted to give him something special, perhaps a good luck charm to carry with him. I'd looked everywhere before laying my eyes on the puffin keychain. I didn't know why I wanted to give him this puffin keychain as it was the only one I had but it wasn't really mine anyway. I quickly Googled "puffin migration" and was astounded to see that it is still a mystery where they migrate to in winter. This was the tiny thread that linked our Cuban friends to us and the puffins. As the yacht pulled away from the dock, 'A' and 'R' both grabbed me and with tremendous emotion, said thank you and goodbye. The owner slurred,, "There's still love in the world" as he tried leaving the berth without turning on his engine and then turned the wrong way out of the marina before realising his mistake. A 180 deg u-turn ensued and pointing the yacht towards the channel entrance, 'A' pulled the puffin out of his pocket, clutched it as if it was a gold bar, thumped his heart with his fist and yelled, "I will keep this forever" and with huge smiles and tears they were gone.

Four anxious days passed with no word from the boys. Today, we heard they are now in Miami, Florida, USA after being granted permission to stay. This trip has been full of odd experiences and special encounters. It's not about the places we travel to; it's all about the people we meet. Certainly, puffin on a Cuban is good for the soul.

4 November, 2012 | TAW
What a beautiful story. I am so glad they are now "dry foot" and can stay in the US. May they have every success in bringing their family across to join them. They deserve it. Love the bit too about the red thread of fate - will google that to find out more. Very well written Vick. I had forgotten about us looking for a puffin keyring. Everyone who looks at my photos of the trip exclaims over the puffin jigsaw. They are a very special bird. Love Jude.
5 November, 2012 | eric
What a great story! We really enjoyed that.
5 November, 2012 | Prent
Great story and great ending. Thanks for sharing it. Who knows what will happen next on your journey?
Milk Water
Vicki - Sunny 24 deg, 10 kn N
3 November, 2012, Little Grand Cay, Bahamas

A week has passed since Hurricane Sandy and if you've checked the webcam site on you'll see that we've now left Freeport, Grand Bahama. The wind has been too strong to venture out but we've covered nearly 150 miles in search of good snorkelling sites and picture perfect island getaways. The sea temperature has changed from 27.5 deg to a cool 22 deg, a wee bit disappointing as it's borderline cold for my liking and in a month's time we'll need head protection and wetsuits due to the cold water. The hurricane has salt burned all the leaves on the north side of all plants on these islands and the water is a milky colour in places making it difficult to do any watermaking.

All the cruising guides mention the shallow depths in the Bahamas and we can confirm that it's true as we've had a few heart pounding moments in depths of 2.1 metres (our keel is 1.9 metres) as we inch our way towards anchorages near cays and islands. Maynard's middle name should be "Shortcut" as we've taken some beauties in our lives both on land and on the water. He found one yesterday at the western end of Grand Bahama as we headed over to Great Sail Cay which shaved 20 miles off our 100 mile day ensuring we arrived before sunset although I probably have a few more grey hairs. Actually, it wasn't as bad as we thought but one needed to stay extremely vigilant in the winding 3 mile unmarked channel.

It seems that this hurricane and those of the past have changed the depths as again we had very shallow water today on our approach to Little Grand Cay which is the farthest northern island in the Bahamas. As it lies adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, the water clarity has improved somewhat but it is still very cool for swimming. We have only seen 2 vessels in 2 days of travelling and expected to see dozens. We are constantly amazed at how few yachts are on the water wherever we go. The above photo was taken at Double Breasted Cay which is near Little Grand Cay.

If we find that the Bahamas are just too cool for snorkelling or the anchorages too distant for our intended journey, we may have to make some drastic changes to our plans.

3 November, 2012 | Alison Stump
Glad to see a smile on your faces and to now know where you went. We were worried that Vanish had vanished.
4 November, 2012 | Vicki
Phone signal and internet is getting more sketchy so reports may not be as prolific but will do our best for you.
4 November, 2012 | TAW
Oh I"m with Alison - I was getting worried too. Looks beautiful (love your hat). You both look great. Happy sailing. Love you.
8 November, 2012 | Alan Davis
Wow-I guess we didn't pay close enough attention to the exact track of Sandy-we were too concrerned about where and how hard it was going to hit us-glad to hear that you endured it-but with definately a closer call than up here in NH/Me.-we got off fairly unscathed(except a few trees on Zack's island)Did you see the pics of New Jersey/New York? Wow! What a mess! Hope for fair seas and more good times. Hi to Maynard
Post Hurricane Sandy
Vicki - Sunny - 15 kn NW
28 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas

Last night we unwound with a Post Hurricane Survival Party on Vanish with Mike, Heidi, Nickol, 'A, 'R', Jake and Renae which we all badly needed. As friend Alison pointed out in a below Comment, you can see Vanish this week on a live webcam in Freeport at:

Maynard and I were still worried about the West End vessels so we hired a mini-bus to take us there as no regular buses travel on Sundays to the area. Luckily, Shari, a local lady also needed to get back to her house after the hurricane as she didn't know how it had survived so she hopped in as well and off we went. The road was badly damaged at Fishing Hole Road where a tiny strip of land divides the ocean to the north and south. Seaweed was piled up alongside the road and as high as 4 feet in the fences of some businesses and homes. We saw downed power lines draped across the road, shipping containers had floated into carparks, trees toppled and plants absolutely windblasted of their leaves. We were stopped by a small crowd and officials watching the Prime Minister touring a damaged house on the way out to the marina.

At the marina, we found our friends had survived although they had retreated to the resort for 3 days as there were 3 foot waves in the marina and 90 mph (75 knot) winds. The yacht had a particularly hard time as they were being so pressed against the dock and with tremendous windage from their mast, they had a battle on their hands to save the yacht which they did. There was so much seaweed in the marina that at first, I thought it was soil. Waves were breaking against the docks and Tim and Sherry on their boat aptly named Seaweed said their boat was rocking gunnel to gunnel so this is why they went to the resort.

On the way back, our bus driver also drove past the Freeport Airport which is still closed and was under around 4 feet of saltwater. Some parked cars in the carpark were swept into the fence surrounding the airport. We also saw 4 or 5 small aircraft had been blown into a power pole and were all bundled together. Ai yi yi, were we lucky!

30 October, 2012 | TAW
Wow, you were so lucky not to have any damage. Well, luck??? More like good planning, knowing th weather, putting the boat in a dock that would be the safest. Well done!!
31 October, 2012 | Phil & Peta
Dear Vicki & Maynard we seem so far away in Adelaide but have been thinking of you and glad you have survived to tell us all the stories. We agree with the local saying "Go Away Sandy". Love from the Rose Buds/ Team Erica

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